Our Students as Creators, Part 2

In the first post on this topic, I introduced the need for what I called “Creator’s Lessons”.

I neither defined this term, nor did I support it in any detail. I intend to do both those things as we go through this and the next couple of posts. But, I’ll start with a graphic that explains where I’m coming from.

CreatorSlide

First, a few comments on each of those distinct parts.

  1. Students and teachers should…

a.  … feel accomplished and satisfied with the work they do in schools.

In some ways, schools have never been more effective at doing their jobs. More kids are learning more math than at any point in human history. Literacy rates are likely similar. I mean, I know that we don’t necessarily compare other other countries as well as we’d like, but we compare to the USA of 100 years ago extremely well, or at least as far as the basic measureables go.

On the other hand, satisfaction with our schools appears to be at a pretty low point. There are lots of people who feel like schools need to “be better”… whatever that means. And it’s coming from the political left and the political right. A lot of this has to do, I believe, with unsettled goals. In the 100 years that our schools have been improving, the disagreements over the goals of our schools have been widening and becoming more intense.

And I think this plays out in a lot of ways. Primarily, families, students, teachers, supporters of education often wonder (at times with legitimate anxiety) whether the time or young people spent in school is productive or meaningful. Well, quite frankly, it shouldn’t be that way. I suggest we set as a formal goal that teachers and learners will be satisfied with the time they spend in the classroom just as often as possible. I’m not saying “inspired” or “energized”, I’m saying “satisfied” — as often as possible, up to 5 days a week. It would be nice if the teacher and student could reflect at the end and say, “Yup, that was a good day.” This leads us to part 2 of this discussion:

b. … have those who hold them accountable be satisfied with those accomplishments.

This is all for naught if the student and teacher are going to wipe their brows and feel satisfied only to have the parent and/or the administrator look at it and think it’s a waste. Or a step in the wrong direction. Or not see the value in the steps taken. This part requires collaboration to get goals aligned. Asking the tough questions and being willing to humbly give up control at times. There are a lot of pressures governing this scenario. The teacher who makes the lesson plan has to know that if lessons regularly don’t support the school improvement goals, the administrator CANNOT support it. The admin has to know that if the teacher hammers away at test prep day after day, the kid will stop wanting to come to that class. The parent has to know that the teachers are going to have to make decisions that cannot possibly take each family’s value set into account. The student is going to have to give the teacher the benefit-of-the-doubt when they need to something that feels a little school-y.

This is a community-wide vision sentiment. We need to make it a priority to get our admins, our teachers, our learners, and our families on the same page. Any one of those parts being out-of-sync has potentially ruinous effects for the ability of the school to do it’s job. And I’m not simply talking about deciding who is the most valuable among them and letting them call the shots. (Depending on the school community, any one of those people might get to sit on the throne.) Rather, I’m talking about aligning the goals that each of those groups have. Teachers want some autonomy, support for the daily struggle, and some flexibility. Admins tend to have productivity goals based on measurables that often they don’t get to choose. Students want to know that they are partners in school. They want to be challenged, inspired, treated like real people who have their own goals. Parents want to know that their kids will be valued, challenged and supported – kept safe and won’t have their personal home values undermined by school policies.

This the launch point from which I’m going to build the rest of thoughts. In my next post, I’ll unpack the second box. I’ll discuss how, from my seat, teaching and learning research, anthropology (and some anecdotal story-telling) can support how this lofty goal can get met.

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